Q: In reading your FAQ and previous columns, I see that it is possible to use a Mac-formatted iPod on a Windows PC through the use of a third-party software application called MacDrive. I also noticed a comment about “Restoring” the iPod for Windows. Are you able to provide more details on how to do this and can you advise whether I will loose the music currently on the iPod? I bought my iPod while living in England and had downloaded all my music from my work Mac computer. I now live in NZ and want to use my PC, however no longer have all the music.
A: There are actually two slightly different considerations here. The first point is that Windows itself will not natively read any Mac-formatted disk. Since traditional iPod models appear to your computer simply as a removable hard disk, this same limitation applies to a Mac-formatted iPod as it would for any other Mac-formatted disk.
Note that if you are using an iPhone or iPod touch, this does not apply, as these devices use a different synchronization protocol. As a result, you can use an iPhone or iPod touch on Mac and Windows computers interchangeably, subject to the usual restrictions on automatically synchronizing with only a single iTunes library.
What MacDrive (http://www.mediafour.com, $50, five-day trial available) provides is the driver support to allow the Windows operating system to read and write to Mac-formatted disks, including the iPod. Simply installing MacDrive onto your Windows computer will not affect any of the content on your iPod itself—it will simply allow the Windows operating system, and by extension iTunes, to access your iPod as if it were a Windows-formatted iPod.
However, this is all that MacDrive does. Once your computer can access the Mac-formatted iPod, it will still be treated like any other iPod that has been synchronized with another iTunes library, in that you will not be able to automatically sync with a new iTunes library without erasing all of the content currently on the iPod. Alternatively, you can set your iPod to “Manual” mode and simply manage the content on it using the drag-and-drop method rather than automatically syncing with an iTunes library.
If you are going to continue using your iPod on a Windows PC, however, the recommendation about restoring it so that it is Windows-formatted does apply. Using a Mac-formatted iPod on Windows (or a Windows-formatted iPod on a Mac) is not a configuration that is supported by Apple, and there have been reported problems in the past with this type of configuration. Of course, restoring your iPod does erase all of the content on it, so you would need to transfer the content back to your computer before proceeding.
Our our iPod 201 article on Copying Content from your iPod to your Computer covers some of the methods and tools available to copy content from your iPod back to your computer. In your case, you would simply install MacDrive first so that your Windows computer can read the iPod, and then proceed to follow the instructions in the above tutorial in terms of actually recovering the content.
Once all of the content is back in your iTunes library, you can safely reformat the iPod for Windows and reload it from your iTunes library. You could also uninstall MacDrive once you had done this, and since the five-day trial is fully functional you could likely complete the entire process with the trial version.